I was returning to my car yesterday, after a stunning performance of La Traviata, when I tumbled down some Lincoln Center steps, slamming my hands onto the pavement. I immediately rose and dusted myself off, prompting a gray-haired lady to observe that she'd never seen anyone pop up so quickly after a fall. Witness my style.
My left palm is purple, plump, and painful today, a reminder that I’ve wrestled with style for years. As a medical student, I looked and acted young- not a trace of gravitas. Fortunately, I married a woman with panache, which immediately improved my outward appearance, although three years of q4 call sabotaged the new “look” with a shabby beard, wild hair, and droopy eyes.
I took a certain pride in authenticity—I was and always will be a kid from Queens—but I’ve come to recognize the benefits of style. I used to think that all I needed to do to convince patients to make good decisions—to stop smoking, for example—was to present evidence clearly, as if explaining that smoking causes cancer would magically move them to quit. I subsequently became versed in shared decision making, convinced that the combination of respect for autonomy and gentle persuasion would lead them to good choices. But there’s a coolness to shared decision making that persuades patients less effectively than communication gurus admit.
It took me years to appreciate the magic of a crisp white coat, laundered shirts and slacks, a neat haircut, and shiny shoes- elements of style that synergize with warm handshakes, business cards, eye contact, and undivided attention. You can explain facts and figures, and you can perfect communication techniques, but you’ll always come up short if you don’t look and act like a doctor. That's the power of style- fostering connection, promoting trust, and nurturing healing.
By the way, the opera was great, as was the lobster on City Island, and the wonderful company.
Enjoy your Sunday everyone,